The first election

Game Together: Responsible Gaming This month's South Australian election is the first for my younger daughter, who turned 18 last year. This afternoon we had a preparatory talk, prompted by her suddenly saying: I have to vote tomorrow. What? Who? How? Fortunately she knows "where". She's come along on many previous voting days. I have to vote by post, so I was able to show her the voting slips. She took one look at the Senate slip and said: What is that? An alien robot sex-ed diagram? Quite possibly. Question Time does makes one wonder. However, this handy webpage tool (thanks to the ABC for publicizing it) reduces the Panadol quotient of the Senate voting slip. You can rate your interest in each political party, then the tool outputs a page looking just like the Senate voting slip, with your numbers already filled in. It even takes account of preference voting. You can print out the page, even scribble on it, and take it with you when you vote. It's like having a whiteboard with all the Senate names and boxes already shown. You can see the whole thing in one place, and adjust your ideas as you go. So, my daughter and I worked our way down the list of parties on that webpage. She's very keen to support Gamers 4 Croydon, who represent the online gaming community. At the age of 19, she enjoys playing network games with her friends all over the world. However, our inconsistent and frustrating censorship policy bans all games not suitable for children, regardless of the very large adult gaming community. The Australian censor appears to ban games almost at random. My daughter bought the computer game Left4Dead, which was rated 15+ in Australia. When the sequel, Left4Dead 2, was released, her friends bought it overseas, and couldn't wait to play it with her. However, she couldn't buy it in Australia, because our censor decided this second version of the same game should be Refused Classification. This event has infuriated adult gamers all over Australia, who have been lobbying for years for an R18 rating for adult games. So here we have Gamers 4 Croydon on the Senate voting slip. Its varied and responsible platform belies the name. The other urgent topic for my daughter (and the rest of our family, and all netizens) is Internet censorship. Only the Greens have opposed it from the start. Other parties have vacillated at best, and at worst, parrotted Senator Conroy's horribly embarrassing lack of basic understanding of how the Internet works. Australia now looks really stupid to other countries, and as voters, we don't like that. Also, the Labor Party has dropped the ball on the environment, so the Greens are needed even more. Even allowing for eccentricity, this year's Senate ticket is a walk on the wild side. From the head-in-the-sand "Climate skeptics" and "Family First" to the cryptic "MAGS 2010" and "CARS", we have almost every tint on the political spectrum, including more than one party aimed at corruption in state government. What worries people most right now? As usual, we want our rights and services protected. Who can we trust to represent our needs? As my daughter said: We don't want to turn out like America, where everyone has guns and no-one has health insurance.


Censorship really annoys me

Get the facts!I've held out a long time without creating a blog. There is always something else that needs doing, especially with my intermittent and very limited capacity (I'm very ill). But at this point, it's either express my opinion or get a new set of false teeth. I'm grinding this lot way too much. For those of you who actually live in the free world, the Rudd Australian government is trying to push through legislation to censor the Internet. Yes, I said Australia... not China, Burma or Iran. Right here in the "lucky country", our government is once again pushing its sticky fingers into what we read, view and enjoy. Australia has a remarkably inconsistent censorship system, the only observable result of which is that we miss out on things everybody else can access. Ask my adult daughter some time about the difficult of accessing computer games her friends are playing all over the world. Sheesh! Anyway, the so-called clean feed is pretty much the last straw. With no community mandate whatsoever, the Rudd government intends to legislate compulsory ISP-level Internet "filtering" which
  • doesn't work
  • will significantly slow down your Internet connection
  • will not prevent child-abusers from circulating illegal content
  • will not protect children from cyber-bullying, identity theft or sexual stalking online
The latter two points make the government's "For the children!" rallying cry sound particularly tinny. If they want to make the Internet safer for kids, it will be much cheaper and more effective to educate kids and parents on the tools they already have available. They could also make a major difference by allotting even a fraction of the censorship bill's costs to our overworked Federal Police, who specialize in trapping child abusers online. Both these measures would have appreciable results. This is a censorship bill, however much the government may try to dramatize and confuse the issue. The proposed legislation violates Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia is a signatory. No other supposedly democratic country tries to censor the Internet like this. Despite our government's odd disinformation on this point, the U.S., U.K. and France have rejected mandatory Internet censorship. So it's just us and some rabidly totalitarian countries, huh? In addition to all of the above, the Rudd government have ignored any and all expert advice given them by ISPs and the Internet industry in general. Actually, you don't have to be an expert to see how technologically inept this "filter" is. Every kid with a mouse or a smartphone knows it won't work. It doesn't handle secure webpages, webpages with logins, email, chat clients, peer-to-peer or any of the multitude of other access methods, but the Rudd government is still determined to spend millions of our taxpayer dollars on it. A five-year old buying lollies at the corner store makes better financial decisions. Really, I'm stuck in deciding whether I'm more outraged by this censorship bill because it's stupid (it won't work), or because it contravenes UDHR Article 19. Decisions, decisions...